Van Buren will start enforcing a county wide mask mandate sometime before Thanksgiving.
Mayor Greg Wilson said the decision came after seeing some of his residents pass away because of COVID.
“It is something that is getting near and dear to me, and I do look for Van Buren County to sometime soon, very soon in the near future of going to a mask mandate,” Wilson said. “And I am not doing this out of anything except for the protection of the people of this county.”
Wilson said recent positivity rates in Van Buren County are too high to not place a mandate.
“We are pretty much always in the top 10 in cases and positivity rates,” Wilson said. “So, I think the last positivity rate I saw a couple days ago was nearing 14 percent. The CDC would like to see everybody around that three percent mark. That positivity rate keeps rising. At times, we have had a 50 percent positivity rate on our testing in Van Buren County.”
Once the mandate is in place, Wilson said it will be up to local law enforcement to enforce.
“I am sure they would enforce it,” Wilson said. “And I am not saying let’s run out here and write everybody a ticket that does not have one, but let’s say with the encouragement of law enforcement to wear a mask.”
Wilson said he acknowledges the population against this mandate, but as an elected official, he wants to protect his residents.
“I know there are going to be people to reject it, and there are going to be people to resist it. However you want to put it,” Wilson said. “But, they need to respect the others. Other people that would like to wear a mask.”
A point of concern for Mayor Wilson are indoor sporting events. Under the mandate, fans at indoor sporting events would be required to wear a mask.
“I can not say to the school system everybody is going to wear a mask today at school, and while you are at school, you are going to have a mask,” Wilson said. “That is left up to the local board of education and director of schools, of course. But, when they have an indoor sporting activity, that mandate carries.”
Wilson said he thinks all Upper Cumberland county leaders need to come together to discuss a regional mandate. Wilson said he will invite all leaders to a conference call Monday to discuss this idea.